by Dominic Corva, Executive Director
Yesterday, the WSLCB invited public comment hearing in Olympia to receive testimony on whether the state should allow regulated (not civil liberty) home grow in the State of Washington. There were two kinds of testimony presented that I have not previously identified in my recent writing on the subject: the mobilization of the financial industry against democracy, and the “big picture” stakes of home grow as a step towards making peace with the plant, which several speakers mobilized but none so movingly as the former Deputy Director of the WSLCB, Randy Simmons.
Banking against democracy
The first, chronologically, was testimony by representatives of the I-502 banking industry. Salal Credit Union and Numerica Credit Union — representing the west and east sides of the State, respectively — both testified against home grow of any kind, suggesting that both institutions would withdraw their services from I-502 if the State went for home grow, because they considered Federal intervention on the basis of the Cole Memo to endanger their ability to do business. Given that 7 other States and the nation’s capital aren’t being threatened for having home grow, this argument seems either ill-informed or nakedly political.
In any case, it represents the first time I have seen a threat of extortion by the private sector against even the consideration of what might be in the public interest. It gives opponents of home grow in this State another political reason not to fairly consider whether prohibiting home grow is optimal as a social policy. Other States would do well to heed this development going forward: if banking opens up, which is necessary and desirable for legal cannabis markets, banking is going to favor the continuity of prohibition, which is unnecessary and undesirable for ending the drug war.
Home Grow as Free from Regulation as Possible is a Small Step towards Normalization of the Plant
Former Deputy Director Simmons’s testimony can be found at 1:01 of the archived video. It was remarkable to hear from someone who played such a positive role early in the I 502 implementation process, as the Board’s Deputy Director. More remarkable, to me, was the way he described the issue at hand as being about far more than home grow. I present his testimony transcribed below.
“Good morning Madam Chair, Members of the Board, my name is Randy Simmons. I am the former director of the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and I was the implementation manager of I-502. I know you’ll hear a lot of different opinions today and I want to let you know I respect all those opinions and am aware of the difficulty you have to make.
I’d like to present to you that I am in support of home grows as free of regulation as possible.
It’s been a long road I’ve been on since I left here. I watched as some of the best doctors in the world filled my wife with poison intended to kill cancer. I watched as she went through multiple surgeries, and then was burned to kill whatever was left. And that was done by what is probably doctors at the cancer center in the world. At the same time I watched this cancer research in London and Madrid and Paris find ways to slow this breast cancer disease in women, and we do nothing here. We need our universities and our scientists and frankly our pharmaceutical companies involved in this research, and we can’t do that unless this is removed from the Schedule I substance.
And I have no illusion that allowing home grows in Washington is going to remove this as a Schedule I substance.
But I do see it as one small step in the normalization of this plant that has beneficial medical treatment for people, so that one day the research finds not just the cannabinoid profile that slows the growth of cancer but can actually cure it. I never want to watch my grandchildren — my granddaughters — to have to deal with being told they have to deal with an aggressive Stage 3 cancer, and in order to give you the best chance to live, we have to poison you, mutilate your body, and burn [inaudible] …
All journeys begin with a small step, and I think allowing this normalization of home grows is a small step. Thank you.”
Analysis: Home Grow as a Small Step
Mr. Simmons’ testimony addressed home grow as a step towards “normalizing” the plant, a process of cultural change necessary for vital “big steps” to happen. He specifically refers to cancer research, which in his analysis (with which I agree) is being blocked by far more than legislative or Federal (in)action. He identifies the source of those blocks as cultural — we can’t get to the Big Steps of cancer research in this country until people understand cannabis as a plant, rather than an immanent threat to society which must be controlled.
It’s not enough to change laws. The work to be done is cultural, and what legal change can do is either open up avenues for cultural change or block them.
The refusal of a nominally rebellious State against Federal policy that dehumanizes its citizens (on immigration, on LGBTQ rights, on climate change, and so forth) to take “small steps” against the dehumanization of its citizens that want to grow a plant blocks broader cultural change towards peace instead of war, research instead of no research, banking instead of no banking, participation instead of bans or moratoria, parenting instead of policed parenting, and yes, in my opinion, consumer participation in a regulated market instead of what we have today, declining levels of participation int he regulated market.
The “small step” of home grow would signal a cultural change towards accommodation of the regulated system, and would actually increase banking profits, producer profits, retail profits, and sustainable taxation revenues. I argue here that the political forces using empirically unsupportable arguments like the fear of federal intervention are shooting themselves in the foot, because they do not understand the long term benefits of broad cultural acceptance of the plant upon which their industry is based.
The normalization of cannabis as a plant rather than a threat to society is the endgame, and I sure wish that politicians, industry, and banking understood how much it would be in their best interest to facilitate that, instead of contributing counterproductively and short-sightedly to the politics of fear.